Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/RICHARD HUGGARD
Ernst Middendorp. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/RICHARD HUGGARD

Hendrick Ekstein’s propensity for playing a decent game but making crucial errors that can lead to conceded goals is due to a lack of continuous game time in his career.

That’s according to Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp, who says the 28-year-old has the qualities needed to carry a team forward.

Ekstein put in another good shift in Saturday’s Premiership Soweto Derby 1-1 draw against Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium‚ in his best season so far for Amakhosi. But after Daniel Cardoso’s penalty put Chiefs ahead in the 53rd minute‚ Ekstein gave the possession away in the 80th for the ball to be worked to Ben Motshwari‚ who provided the through-pass for Thembinkosi Lorch’s equaliser.

Despite this being Ekstein’s second such mistake in recent weeks — he gave the ball away after not shielding it correctly in the Caf Confederation Cup defeat against Zesco United — Middendorp said Ekstein is “one of the best players I have worked with”.

The coach said the midfielder had not benefited from enough game time before Middendorp’s arrival to replace Giovanni Solinas on December 9.

“Look at the games of a player like Hendrick Ekstein before December 9. It was a game here‚ then 20 minutes there‚ then 60 minutes here‚ and then nothing for three weeks‚” Middendorp said. He said in order to grow and fully express their talent and skills set, players need game time.

“And you need games over a longer period. Not only over two months‚ or whatever. You need the training in the week to get it right‚ to get the information‚ to get soccer-related knowledge and tools‚ and then to find the solution.

“Hendrick is an outstanding player. And he’s not a youngster any more — that’s the next point. He’s 28. 

“It happens [mistakes]‚ unfortunately. But what can we do? We could have corrected it [after the mistake happened]‚ but that’s part of the team’s work. We could have corrected it‚ closed the space‚ then nothing would have happened.

“So OK. It’s unfortunate when it happens. But for me, he’s an outstanding player. He’s one of the best players I have worked with.”

Despite his notable improvement this season‚ Ekstein remains a divisive figure. He is a crowd favourite for his skills, however more discerning fans‚ and the media‚ raise concerns about technical flaws that persist.

The next league fixture for sixth-places Chiefs is against Polokwane City at Peter Mokaba Stadium on February 23.